UK Government Move to Impose a Ban on Ivory Sales Gives Hope to Elephant Survival

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The U.K. government has announced that it will ban the trade of items made from ivory, a move seen by many conservationists as a hugely important step towards safeguarding the future of elephants.

Announcing the new law, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the ban will be one of the toughest in the world and reaffirms the U.K.’s commitment to ending ivory trade. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Britain was the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory between 2010 and 2015.

Welcoming the announcement, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) President Kaddu Sebunya said: “The announcement by the U.K. government is such a significant move towards fighting illegal wildlife trade and gives hope to the survival of African elephants that are diminishing at an alarming rate due to demand for ivory.”

At the start of October 2017, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs launched a public consultation on a potential ban on ivory sales in the U.K. The consultation, which was the biggest in the department’s history, received a massive public response with over 88% of the 70,000 responses in favor of the ban.

However, there will still be some exemptions to the ban, which will include:

  • Items comprised of less than 10% ivory (by volume) and made before 1947.
  • Musical instruments made before 1975 and comprised of less than 20% ivory.
  • Rare or important items at least 100 years old, assessed before exemption permits are issued.
  • Specific portrait miniatures painted on thin ivory bases for commercial activity between accredited museums.

“We laud the decisive action by the U.K. government to ban the ivory trade. With the U.K. being the largest supplier of the world’s ivory market, the robust measures send a strong message that ivory’s rightful place is on an elephant and not as a decorative item or a product for financial gain,” added Sebunya.

In October 2018, the U.K. will host the fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, bringing global leaders together to build a worldwide consensus on tackling the trade and better protect the world's most iconic species from the threat of extinction.

AWF stands ready to work with the U.K. government to continue the momentum to end the ivory trade.